Julius Malema, the suspended and gagged youth league leader, cocked a snook at the ANC on Friday when he visited two churches in Butterworth, Eastern Cape – and vowed he would not be silenced.
“I will never be silenced. There is nobody who has a right to silence me. The right to speak was given to me from the day I was born,” the Dispatch Online quoted Malema as saying at the Last Hope church in Butterworth’s Cuba township.
It is understood the bishop there requested he address the congregation about his “personal challenges” and, in response, Malema said he felt he was being treated too harshly.
Malema said he wanted the church to pray for him “because those that used to be our friends have turned against us. They have not only turned against us but plan our death. You have an obligation, bishop, that what they plan for does not succeed”.
However, one youth league official who was there said that at no time did Malema mention the ANC or any particular individual and maintained his attendance was not for the youth league, but a church service to “get spiritual healing”.
Malema’s immediate temporary suspension on Wednesday came with conditions that he may not perform duties as an ANC member or youth league president, may not address any meeting of the ANC, or any of its structures, nor make any public statement on matters related to the ANC.
However, the visits were made in his capacity as ANCYL president, according to the youth league’s spin doctor Floyd Shivambu, who on Thursday announced on on Friday’s programme.
Earlier, Malema attended the Good on Fridayy church service at the Twelve Apostles in Christ Church, accompanied by national and Eastern Cape youth league officials and reportedly National Youth Development Agency boss Andile Lungisa. He did not speak there.
The youth league on Thursday announced only the first church visit as part of the commemoration of Umkhonto we Sizwe soldier Solomon Mahlangu, who was hanged by the apartheid government on April 6, 1979.
The youth league special national executive committee meeting, which had been expected to be held on Thursday, is now anticipated on Monday.
It is understood there may be tensions over how to handle this latest twist in the disciplinary saga. However, previously the youth league officially resolved Malema would not be replaced as its leader – there may be an acting president until the next conference – and would be invited to address public platforms regardless of the outcome of the appeal against his expulsion.
Speculation remains rife as to whether Malema will address Monday’s meeting.
If he does, it would be a clear contravention of the conditions of his temporary suspension, which might elicit a strong response from the ANC, or its national disciplinary committee, in what could become an escalating tit-for-tat political game.
What started this week’s political drama were Malema’s comments at last on Friday’s ANC centenary lecture at Wits University, also attended by ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa.
“We have seen the youth of the ANC being traumatised. We have seen the youth of the ANC being expelled from their own home. It is under president [Jacob] Zuma, we have seen a critical voice being suppressed. We have seen under president Zuma democracy being replaced with dictatorship,” Malema told the capacity audience.
Wednesday’s suspension of Malema came a day after a show of unity against “alien behaviour” by ANC top six officials, including Zuma, who made their first public appearance together since the 2007 ANC Polokwane conference.
It seemed Malema’s likening of Zuma to a dictator had hit a nerve. ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said it was not an insult directed at Zuma only: “It’s an insult to all of us. [It says] We don’t think, we just wait for direction from the dictator.”
ANC disciplinary committee chairman Derek Hanekom said Malema had been suspended because his statements were “very serious”.
Even if Malema was invited to address meetings, he was under “no obligation to go” because he was aware of the conditions of his temporary suspension.
Professor Susan Booysen, of the Wits University Graduate School of Public and Development Management, said “as bizarre and absurd as it may be, it’s about… showing who governs the ANC, who is in control of the ANC”.
“At this stage of the game… diplomacy or gently stepping around the issues is not seen to be possible. So, you may as well take the sledgehammer and use it,” she said.
It is understood court action by Malema would be a last resort, to be considered only after exhausting all internal party processes. This includes appealing his temporary suspension to the national disciplinary committee of appeals.
That appeals committee sits next Thursday to hear the appeals by Malema and Shivambu against their expulsion and suspension respectively.
Following the hearing, the appeals committee will have to decide, and make public its decision, whether or not to uphold the verdicts.
If it upholds the expulsion, it will immediately kick in. The only option then is to lobby the ANC special committee for a review and, if that does not succeed, raise the matter at the ANC Mangaung conference.